EUROPEAN Union boss Jean-Claude Juncker this afternoon issued a jaw-dropping threat to the United States, saying he could campaign to break up the country in revenge for Donald Trump’s supportive comments about Brexit.
UPDATED: 16:52, Thu, Mar 30, 2017
In an extraordinary speech the EU Commission president said he would push for Ohio and Texas to split from the rest of America if the Republican president does not change his tune and become more supportive of the EU.
The remarks are diplomatic dynamite at a time when relations between Washington and Brussels are already strained over Europe’s meagre contributions to NATO and the US leader’s open preference for dealing with national governments.
They are by far the most outspoken intervention any senior EU figure has made about Mr Trump and are likely to dismay some European leaders who were hoping to seek a policy of rapprochement with their most important ally.
Speaking at the centre-right European People Party’s (EPP) annual conference in Malta this afternoon, the EU Commission boss did not hold back in his disdain for the White House chief’s eurosceptic views.
He said: “Brexit isn’t the end. A lot of people would like it that way, even people on another continent where the newly elected US President was happy that the Brexit was taking place and has asked other countries to do the same.
“If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas in the US.”
Mr Juncker's comments did not appear to be made in jest and were delivered in a serious tone, although one journalist did report some "chuckles" in the audience and hinted the EU boss may have been joking. The remarks came in the middle of an angry speech in which the top eurocrat railed widely against critics of the EU Commission.
They will be seen as totally inexplicable at a time when EU-US relations appeared to be on the mend, with Vice-President Mike Pence having completed a largely successful trip to Brussels and the commander-in-chief himself significantly softening his tone towards the EU project.
Mr Juncker did not criticise Britain at all during his speech, and only made reference to Brexit in relation to Mr Trump and the opportunities it presents for Europe to reform itself.
#Juncker: if President #Trump will continue to praise #Brexit, I will call for independence of #Ohio and exit of #Texas from US.
— Siegfried Muresan (@SMuresan) March 30, 2017
If he goes on like that I am going to promote the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas in the US
He told the audience in Malta: “Brexit isn’t the end of everything. We must consider it to be a new beginning, something that is stronger, something that is better.”
Speaking before him, EU Council president Donald Tusk was less reserved in his remarks about the UK vote as he tore into the populist politics which led to Brexit.
The Polish eurocrat said the argument over sovereignty - epitomised by the Vote Leave slogan ‘take back control’ - was “a view that is both foolish and dangerous” and that the EU guaranteed countries’ strength of the world stage.
He also accused populist politicians, such as the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders and France’s Marine Le Pen, of promoting “organised hatred” with their views on immigration.
However his conservative colleague Antonio Tajani, the EU Parliament president, received a rapturous ovation as he launched an impassioned defence of Europe’s “Christian values”.
In a series of thinly veiled comments about immigration, a major political issue in his homeland and Malta, the Italian official said Europe should do more to defend its historic identity.
He said: “We shouldn’t be ashamed of saying we’re Christian. We’re Christian, it is our history.
“If we leave our identity we will have in Europe all identities but not European identities. For this we need to strengthen our identity.
“It is impossible to win without identity, without our values. Of course we are different, many languages, many ideas, but we are united on the values and this is the most important content.”